Coeur et Sol • Chelsa Hernandez
An interesting theme that's emerged in our interviews - millennials leaving the fashion and marketing industries to start farms! And they're bringing their branding, marketing and business acumen them to these new ventures. In doing so, they've raised the bar and changed the playbook for how mission-driven, agricultural ventures operate.
Chelsa's journey took her from a career in New York's fashion industry to a vacant lot just outside the city in East Orange that she's transformed into Coeur et Sol - a vibrant, dynamic urban farm! From fresh eggs to fresh ideas like their microgreens CSA, this crew is rewriting the playbook on how farms and communities grow and work together!
What’s the story behind where you are today?
It’s a long, winding path that led me here. I’ll spare you the superfluous details and just say this: I grew up in rural NJ on a small family farm. I grew up digging in the dirt, riding horses, raising dairy goats, and selling farm fresh eggs at the end of the driveway. As I grew older, I tried out many different paths, my last one a straight track to corporate fashion in NYC. Ultimately, I had the realization that I needed to go back to my roots who I truly am. Planted in East Orange, a quick 25 minute train ride from Manhattan, I found a vacant lot and started my plans to grow my urban farm!
What’s your Why?
My why is simple. It is to feed the community and to grow produce organically and sustainably. At least, that’s what it started as. As my first season has progressed, I have built many beautiful relationships with my surrounding community and truly love having the children (and adults!) in the neighborhood stop by to learn a little bit about how food is grown.
What’s on the list for today? What’s next?
Today we are trying to get through all our bed prep work to make sure we get all of our tomatoes and other crops out on time. We are also working hard preparing for our first CSA share next week! Next is (hopefully) bountiful harvests and plenty of weeding. For our second growing season, we hope to hire a Farm Assistant. We are also working on some other projects that are too young to talk about— but we are so excited for what is to come!
What’s one thing that you’d like people to know?
That we CAN change our food system. It will take a lot of time, but there have been generations of amazing farmers preparing the landscape for what is happening today. The solution to hunger and health isn’t to step back and allow industrial farming to expand (and create more and more food waste!), the solution is to start farming. We need more small, family farms. We need to take the lead to inspire and educate new, young farmers. All it takes is to start somewhere!